Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chicken head revisited

I blogged this in November, 2004, and I expect few – if any – of my readers have been with me long enough or have delved deep enough in the archives to have read it:


Another blogger recently used the expression "chicken with its head cut off" to describe a state of extreme excitement and it triggered a nostalgic flashback headless-chickensabout my mother.
My mom was raised on a farm and had a farmer's sensibility about animal rights - essentially, "We own the animals and can do whatever the hell we want with them." Sort of a Book of Genesis "dominion over the animals" perspective that still makes sense to me. Except for dogs, of course. Dogs are simple little people trapped in hairy bodies who just want to make us happy.
There's an old American Indian legend that tells of a time when the Great Spirit split the human and animal worlds apart and, at the last moment, only the dog leaped across the expanding chasm to be with man.
But I digress.
When I was young - in the single-digit age range - my mother occasionally bought a live chicken as part of her grocery shopping. I don't know where she got it. I don't remember ever seeing live chickens in the little IGA grocery store where we shopped.
At any rate, she would take the hapless hen out into our back yard and, with one deft and practiced two-handed twist, rip its head off.
I watched in amazement as the headless chicken dashed blindly around the yard, its wings beating wildly and a fountain of crimson spouting from its neck, until it flopped over in the grass.
That was the first time I witnessed death - not counting insects and other lower life forms - but it wasn't until much later that I grasped the irony that it was being dealt by the same person who gave me life.
You still hear and read the headless chicken metaphor these days, but it's an abstraction to most people born since 1950 - certainly to anyone not raised on a farm.
I have no idea why my mother chose to kill and dress her own chicken rather than just buy it ready to cook from the grocery. I don't know if fresh-killed chicken is supposed to taste better or if it was just cheaper or if she just did it out of nostalgia for how she was raised. And she's not around anymore to ask.
She's gone to the land of the headless chickens. Let's hope they don't hold a grudge.

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